Google PageRank Update Analysis

For those of you not yet aware, Google is currently updating the PageRank they are displaying in their toolbar. Each update causes a stir among the SEO community and webmasters trying to get their websites to the top of the Google Rankings.

What Is PageRank?
Without getting into too much detail, PageRank is essentially a score out of ten
as to the “value” of your site in comparison to other websites on the
Internet. It is based on two primary factors; the number of links you have pointing
to your website and the value of the links pointing to your website. The value
is calculated based on the PageRank of the page linking to you and debatably the
relevancy of the page linking to you (there is no hard evidence to back up the
relevancy factor in regards to PageRank that I have seen, however it definitely
is a factor in your overall ranking).

If you are interested in more information on PageRank you would do well to
visit the many forums and articles on the topic and also visit Google’s own
description on their website at http://www.google.com/technology/ where they
give a brief description of the technology.

What’s New?
The most current PageRank update will undoubtedly cause a larg?r stir than
usual in that many sites have shown drops in their visible PageRank while at
the same time showing significant increases in their backlinks. This fact reveals
that one of three things has occurred in this latest update:

Google has raised the bar on PageRank, making it more difficult to attain a
high level, or
The way they are displaying their backlinks has changed, or
The way they calculate the value of an incoming link has changed.
Any of these are possible and has been noted in the past as something they are
willing to do. Additionally, it is possible for all to occur at the same time.
As we don’t like to use clients as examples, I will use the Beanstalk site,
backlink counts, and PageRank changes as the meter by which the following conclusions
are drawn, however this information was attained through looking at a number
of client websites and their competitors.

Google Raising The Bar To Lower Yours
In the past few PageRank updates it has become quite apparent that Google is
continuously raising the bar on PageRank. In their defense, with all of the
reciprocal link building, link renting, etc. going on this was a natural reaction
to the growing number of high PageRank sites that attained those ranks simply
by building or buying hundreds and thousands of links.

There is no doubt that this is a factor in the changes in this current update.
If your site has maintained it’s PageRank, and the PageRanks of your second-level
pages, then you have done well in holding steady and, if your competitors have
not been as diligent their positions will slip.

New Backlink Calculations
I mention this one only to bring to light that it is a possibility for your
future consideration during other updates. The Beanstalk website went from 750
shown backlinks on Google to 864. It should be noted that Google does not show
all backlinks (if you want a more accurate backlink count go to Yahoo! and enter
“link:http://www.yourdomain.com” (don’t forget the http://)).

When the Beanstalk site showed 750 backlinks on Google we were showing around
12,000 on Yahoo! (about 6.5% showing on Google). The Beanstalk site is currently
showing 864 on Google and 15,500 on Yahoo! (about 5.6%). If anything then, Google
is showing less links than before which negates the possibility that a website’s
PageRank is dropping due to a decrease in links but being hidden by an increased
number being displayed.

In short, while the backlinks Google chooses to display has certainly changed
over time, it does not appear to be a major factor in this update. If you see
an increase in your sites backlink counts during this update, you undoubtedly
have an increased number of links.

The Value Of Links
Separate from the number of links you have is their value. This appears to be
an area of significant change in this update. Areas that appear to have reduced
value in regards to affecting PageRank are:

  1. Multiple links from the same site or run-of-site links
    Intelligent and relevant reciprocal links do not seem to have been penalized,
    probably due to the increased relevancy factor. If you reduce the value of
    irrelevant links and raise the value of relevant ones, then there is no need
    to penalize reciprocal links as, done incorrectly, they will penalize themselves.
  2. Links with text around them that indicate they are purchased, such as “Partners”,
    “Advertising”, etc.
    Google has and is actively trying to reduce the value of paid links. This
    appears to have been moderately successful where there is clear indication
    that the link is paid for.
  3. Links from sites that hold little relevancy (this factor is based on educated
    speculation)
    The relevancy factor appears to have become more important. Links from sites
    with content related to yours are showing positive results while sites with
    larg?r numbers of less relevant links are showing drops in PageRank.

What Does This Mean?
For those of you who have been proactive in your link building, and focused
on relevant sites using the Google Directory, searches or a tool like PR Prowler
it means, “stay the course”. Those of you who have been building or
buying links based only on PageRank with little concern for their location,
or how they are presented – you will need to adjust your link building efforts
accordingly.

What Do I Do – My PageRank Dropped?
The first thing not to do is panic. Take a deep breath, PageRank is one factor
of dozens that Google uses to determine the ranking of your page, it is not
the only thing. Visit your main competitors’ sites – there’s a good chance you’ll
see that they too dropped PageRank. The plus side to these kinds of updates
is that they’re universal. It’s not as if Google has it in for you specifically
and so when they do an update, the positive and negative impact is felt by all.

If you’ve noticed that everyone around you has stayed the same or increased
in PageRank try to remember this, there’s nothing you can do about where you’re
currently positioned in regards to PageRank and it will probably be another
3 months before Google updates the public PageRank again so … start building
some good quality (high relevancy, solid PageRank) links. Work towards an increase
in the next update.

Panicking won’t help, intelligent reaction will.

What Happens Now?
Traditionally the search engine results will begin to fluctuate based on the
new visible PageRank 3 to 7 days after they are visible. This does not have
to be the case as Google’s had these numbers all along but its worked this way
in the majority of cases in recent history. So monitor your search engine positions
over the next week or two and watch for changes. Try to hold back on making
major changes to your site during this time as often the final positions will
differ from those that can be viewed during the shuffling. In a couple weeks
time evaluate where you stand and tweak your site as necessary but don’t spend
too much time on that … you have a solid link building effort to undertake.

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